The Cancellation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Trip to Australia and New Zealand

joint post by Jerry Coyne and Heather Hastie


New Zealand is dealing with the tail-end of Cyclone Debbie at the moment. (It made a huge mess of north-west Australia recently.) There’s very heavy rain all across the North Island and the north of the South Island. Several places are receiving a month’s worth of rain in just a couple of days.

Normally, this wouldn’t have much effect on me. I’m lucky enough to live somewhere that is out of the way of any potential flooding. However, this week I’m playing host to Jerry Coyne of Why Evolution is True fame. Yesterday we were going to visit the world famous Waitomo Caves but that went by the wayside because of the downpour. (We’ll go later in the week.)

So we’re at my place, each tapping away separately on our laptops. Jerry therefore made the suggestion that we do a joint post on the most recent appalling situation facing Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Yes, once again a bunch of losers are doing their best to silence this amazing woman.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Hero of Heresy’ Tour of Australia and New Zealand

Like many international acts and speakers, Hirsi Ali planned to visit Australia then “add-on” New Zealand. Thus, New Zealand was going to host Ayaan Hirsi Ali next week, and for the first time. As you can imagine, New Zealand atheists were very much looking forward to this event.

However, neither trip is going to happen. A small number of activists in Australia are accusing Hirsi Ali of Islamophobia and threatening her security via protests and more. Thus, Hirsi Ali has been forced to cancel her trip at the last minute, citing security concerns. Those insuring the visit were also threatened.

It was Hirsi Ali herself who cancelled the tour, which she told the Guardian was due to “a succession of organisational lapses” on the part of Think Inc. There’s no mention of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s tour or its cancellation on Think Inc.’s website. However, the Guardian reports:

In a statement Think Inc … said the cancellation was due to a “number of reasons including security concerns”.

A spokeswoman told Guardian Australia she was “incredibly disappointed” the tour would not be going ahead. “We’re a little bit crushed.”

The main security concern seems to relate to the actions of Syed Murtaza Hussain of the Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia Inc. He got in touch with all the companies who insured the venues Hirsi Ali was due speak at, trying to get their insurance cancelled. Think Inc told the Guardian they were working with the Australian Federal Police in relation to that matter.

Before we get to the latest bout of Hirsi Ali censorship, do read Jeffrey Tayler’s new Quillette piece on her latest work, a 113-page pamphlet published by the Hoover Institute Press called The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam and How to Counter It (free .pdf at the link). Or, better yet, read both Hirsi Ali’s piece and then Tayler’s take on it.

We were told by a reliable source that Retweets of Tayler’s article were blocked at least twice by Twitter, forcing Quillettte to change the url each time.

Jeffrey Tayler: Ayaan Hirsi Ali Explains How To Combat Political Islam

Though neither of us has yet read the long piece, Tayler summarizes it in his Quillette article, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali explains how to combat political Islam.”

Hirsi Ali’s suggestions for quashing Islamism (not Islam!) in the West won’t be welcomed by Regressive Leftists, but most seem sensible. They include an understanding of what dawa and jihad really mean; more stringent vetting of Muslim immigrants for extremist backgrounds and sentiments; recognition that organizations like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and The Muslim Brotherhood, regardless of their claims, act to promote Islamism; and a change in U.S. foreign policy to pressure or “unfriend” those nations supporting Islamism in the U.S. and other countries.

Here’s one quote from Tayler’s piece about those “moderate” Muslims and Islamic organizations so beloved by those who criticize “Islamophobia”:

Although he had openly declared his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, Abdurahman Alamoudi, in the 1990s, found himself appointed by the U.S. government to choose Muslim chaplains for the military and standing side-by-side with President Bush at a post-9/11 press conference. However, in 2003 the authorities arrested him for plotting to assassinate then Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, and later discovered him to be “one of Al-Qaeda’s top fundraisers.”

The executive director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, decried the U.S. government’s “anti-Muslim witch hunt” for raiding the offices of Ghassan Elashi, co-founder of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. But “Elashi was later indicted and convicted of channeling funds to Hamas.” (This unsettling contretemps didn’t stop the FBI from later thanking CAIR for “keep[ing] the nation safe.”) The FBI refuses to “engage in the war of ideas” with Islamists, and therefore blew it severely when it interviewed the infamous Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki four times before he absconded to Yemen to preach jihad. (A drone strike killed him in 2011.)

Later that year, a coalition of Islamist groups urged national security adviser John Brennan to “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials critical of Islamic theology.” Brennan duly complied, cutting 876 pages and 392 presentations deemed “offensive” to Islamist sensibilities but that doubtless would have enlightened analysts as to the Islamist danger. One wonders if any of the terrorist attacks that followed could have been prevented had Brennan not been so attendant to Islamist concerns.

Claire Lehmann

Here’s Quillette editor Claire Lehmann’s video about the cancellation of Hirsi Ali’s Australia tour. It includes statements by those opposing her views, including accusations that she’s a white supremacist! Have they noticed that she’s not only black, but has never advocated such supremacy? That’s what you get when you criticize Islam—the worst epithets the Regressive Left can think of. I’m surprised they didn’t call Hirsi Ali a Nazi!

You may have come across Aussie Claire Lehmann of Rebel Media recently on Jerry’s site. He put up a post: ‘Claire Lehmann on feminism’s new love for Islamic “modesty culture”‘. It’s a great video which I highly recommend. It expresses many of the same sentiments I did in my post: ‘Islam and Women’s Clothing‘. Both Jerry and I love Claire’s quote in the video, “Wearing a hijab is not an achievement”.

This is Lehmann’s a statement on the Rebel Media site about the cancelling of the Hirsi Ali tour in Australia.



Our View of Lehmann’s Video: White Supremacy?!

It’s all pretty disgusting really. We were especially taken with the short video that Lehmann includes by some of the women protesting Hirsi Ali’s visit:

First Woman: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Second Woman: You do not speak for us.
Third Woman: How can you claim to stand for our liberation,
First Woman: when you simply repeat the language of our oppressors?
Fourth Woman: This is not the language of solidarity, or understanding, or freedom.
Third Woman: This is the language of patriarchy and misogyny.
First Woman: This is the language of white supremacy.

Jerry and I were both blown away by this. Ayaan Hirsi Ali of all people facing an accusation of white supremacy! To quote Lehmann:

If someone who is of Somalian origin can be accused of supporting white supremacy, then what chance does anyone else have of not being accused? A Somalian woman who has been subject[ed] to beatings, female genital mutilation, who has escaped an arranged marriage and who has had one close friend assassinated [Theo Van Gogh with whom she made the short film Submission], and who has had a fatwa against her for half of her life – well of course she had a phobia of Islam! Who wouldn’t?

The Western Left are now teaming up with Islamists and are using accusations of bigotry to silence critics. When councils for the prevention of Islamophobia physically threaten venues!? in a country like Australia we should all be treating this as a wake up call.

And perhaps we in New Zealand should be too. Because if this professional victim culture is now in Australia, it could be here soon too. We really don’t need it. We saw some recently in relation to accusations of white supremacy at Auckland University, and we don’t want any more. Freedom of Speech must reign supreme!


Our View of Lehmann’s Video: Patriarchy and Misogyny?!

There is another galling aspect of this short clip. Three of the four women featured are accusing Hirsi Ali of “the language of patriarchy and misogyny” while themselves entombed in clothing forced on them by a patriarchal and misogynist religion. They can say it’s their choice to wear the hijab as much as they like, and in Australia that’s true. The fact remains that multiple Muslim-majority countries exist where women don’t have that choice. In fact in several it is even a crime not to dress as the male clerics determine.

Further there’s plenty of evidence that while wearing a hijab may be a woman’s choice in the West, within many communities it’s not quite that simple. Women are often still  forced to comply with religious rules that stand in opposition to the legal freedoms they nominally enjoy.

More Claims From Protestors

The same group of women set-up a petition protesting Hirsi Ali’s visit. The sponsor was Sherene Hassan who is a board director of the Islamic Museum of Australia. (Who knew there was such a place!?) It got 437 signatures, which is singularly unimpressive.

Syed Murtaza Hussain, the opponent mentioned above who contacted multiple insurance companies, said that if Hirsi Ali spoke in Melbourne there would he 5,000 protestors in attendance. But, if group of women could only manage 437 signatures from the on-line community, where were they going to find all these people? At the time the tour was cancelled, they actually hadn’t even managed to crack the 400 mark! It sounds like their bark is much bigger than their bite, and that’s exactly the problem.

The real reason protests from Islamic groups succeed is because so many of them are violent. People remember all the murder and mayhem in the wake of Islamist actions worldwide and they naturally get scared. For example, in 2015 there were 29,376 deaths as the result of terrorism. 74% of those deaths were attributable to just four organizations – all Islamist. (Boko Haram, the Taliban, DAESH and al-Qaeda.)

Lying for Muhammad

As is so often the case, in asking for the banning of a speaker, the group asking for the ban insists that they are all for freedom of speech. This group is no different. In their statement on the petition, they say:

We welcome and encourage vigorous discussion and debate regarding Islam and the status of women. However to conflate hate speech with free speech undermines both the intelligence of our community and the efforts we have made to maintain respect and dignity in an environment of such hostility. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversation does not contribute to any insights nor further the debate in any way. This is simple sensationalism designed to fuel division and hate. Australia deserves better than this.

This kind of distortion and sensationalism is absolute rubbish. The protestors do not “welcome and encourage vigorous discussion and debate regarding Islam and the status of women” at all! If they did, they would welcome Hirsi Ali. Her desire is for Islam to experience a reformation that would, among other things, improve the status of women. And she has a significant amount to contribute on the topic. Since she was last in Australia she has written a book, Heretic, on the subject. Even more recently, she wrote the paper in the link above.

Hirsi Ali’s experience with how she’s been treated by Islam and its adherents would justify her expressing virulent dislike of that faith. Instead, though, she approaches the topic in a thoughtful and intelligent way. The truth is that too many Muslims don’t want their religion to be put under the microscope. They want people to continue to make comments like, “Islam is a religion of peace,” and “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam.”

Like most Christians, most Muslims haven’t read the Qur’an and often don’t know the reality of their holy book. Most Western atheists know the saying that the best way to create an atheist is to get a Christian to read the Bible. The same is true of getting a Muslim to read the Qur’an. A majority only know the good bits, the same way so many Christians only know the good bits of the Bible.



In the end, a woman who should be a hero to progressives and liberals alike is being not only being demonized, but censored for expressing the very values that liberals supposedly hold. It should go without saying that censorship itself is illiberal. So why is this happening? As both of us have emphasized in earlier posts, it represents the clash between two competing issues. Muslims are perceived as people of color, and thus criticism of them is frequently seen as racism. And, as so often happens, when there’s a clash between feminism and another issue, feminism is required to take a back seat. The abysmal treatment of Hirsi Ali, now and in the past, is perhaps one of the clearest examples of this clash.



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39 Responses to “The Cancellation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Trip to Australia and New Zealand”

  1. Diane G. says:

    Et tu, Australia?

  2. Yakaru says:

    Thanks Heather and Jerry for writing about this disgraceful behaviour by the anti-civil rights movement.

    “Uses the language of the oppressors” is the kind of phrase that might appear at the conclusion of a careful analysis of language use, and a well constructed argument.

    Of course, being the regressive left, the analysis has been deemed unnecessary — TH;DD (too hard; didn’t do) — and the argument declared won by default. So the next step is to take to the streets, victorious and with God on their side.

    Having rejected the conceptual tools of reason, they have rendered themselves incapable of noticing that the term Islamophobia is itself the language of the oppressors.

  3. Michael Dempsey says:

    This brain-dead mentality appears to be spreading with alarming speed. If it ever becomes truly dominant, the values of freedom, robust debate, and the scientific method could become extinct — replaced by a form of tyranny perhaps different in style from past dictatorial methods but, if anything, even more ruthless.

  4. Coel says:

    “Australian imam Mohammed Tawhidi, above, claims he has been forced into hiding after voicing support for the ideas of anti-Islam campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Tawhidi, of the Islamic Association of South Australia, said he agrees with Ms Ali’s call to close Islamic schools in Australia. He has also rejected extremist groups.”

  5. rickflick says:

    Good report. Not much optimism to be had in the situation.

    No one can blame Hirsi Ali for canceling the trip. I’m sure Australia is the big loser though. She would have had a positive and enlightening influence I’m sure. You have to wonder if she returns in a year or two – will things be different?

  6. Glenda says:

    A sad state of affairs down under. How I wish I had an opportunity to hear Hirsi Ali present. Thank you for the excellent report on this.

  7. Randall Schenck says:

    Yes, thanks for writing about this and keep it up. Sorry about the lousy weather but it too shall pass. Ali’s statement about the well functioning Democracy goes right to the point as well. We do not have one in the U.S. any longer, I am very sorry to say but maybe some day again. Hate to see the folks down under going this way — you can never learn or get better if you refuse to hear.

  8. Ken says:

    I too was dismayed to hear Ali felt she had to cancel her talks, particularly due to fear for her physical safety. There is just no excuse for such behaviour and I hope none of the pressure came from Aotearoa.

    I have noted in other threads, however, that not all her positions in the past deserved support, in particular from ten years ago when she stated explicitly that the West was at war with all Islam and that it should be defeated with any means, including military. Apart from being abhorrent, this approach is deeply ironic, as it is just about the most effective way to ensure her worthy goal of reform within Islam will fail.

    Heather and others have assured me that she has retracted all such extremist views, but I’ve never actually seen where this is the case. I have heard more recent interviews where she doesn’t say anything close to those statements, but would still like to know where she said she was wrong ten years ago. Can anyone who follows her more closely than me please provide a reference?

    • Since you put your comment on both Heather’s site and mine, I’ll put my response from my site on this one as well:

      I am not aware of an explicit retraction, but I always assumed that the “war” was an ideological one and didn’t involve military action. I can see, though, how some could construe her statement as a call for real. physical war.

      That said, her latest book makes it eminently clear that she doesn’t hold a military “war” position. Have you read Heretic, whose subtitle is “WHy Islam needs a reformation”? It gives five ways she thinks we should “moderate” Islam. All are structural changes in the faith; none involve military action.

      Is her explanation of her views in her latest book, which is explicitly about non-military ways Islam should be moderated, not enough for you, or will you continue to criticize and discount her views until you get an explicit apology or clarification from her?

      I would go by her record instead of singling out one statement and using it to discount everything she says I note that although you properly decry her banning, you concentrate solely on that one statement and don’t say you agree with anything she’s ever said? Do you? If so, what?

      Or is she to be dismissed because of one statement that, to my mind, is ambiguous given her history of writing?

  9. I wonder what it will take to disentangle the US (and Canada, etc.) from SA …

  10. ThyroidPlanet says:

    ” (….) wearing a hijab may be a woman’s choice (…)”

    I would always further dispute this notion of “choice” – where did this choice come from? Who gave women this choice? When? What are the choices?

    Answers: Islam, Islamic men, centuries ago or when women are age 12, and lastly, the choices are between coverings and violence/psychological abuse. I’ve never seen a covering-less woman promote the virtue of choice, has anyone? How bizarre would that be? I’m sure it’s out there though…

    Further about claims of “choice” : I think this is a classic example of how religion works its trickery on human beings, a hypnotism of sorts, allowing the religion to survive scrutiny, and a particulars strong one.

    • I strongly agree with this. Often it’s not really a choice at all. If you’re a member of a certain community (and this applies to many communities other than Muslim ones), whatever part of the world that community is in, women especially will be required to adhere to some sort of dress standard. That standard usually has its roots in female sexuality and women having to take the responsibility for any digressions on the part of men as well as themselves. It’s not even very long since it changed in the West. Sex is such a vital part of our identity religion has latched on to it as a good way to control people.

  11. Kevin Henderson says:

    Since these few Australian women do not think Ayaan should speak, let me speak for her.

    Islam promotes oppression of women. Unfortunately it’s not the only religion, but the practices of Sharia law win first prize for domestic violence, child marriage, and all but non-existent property rights.

    Makes me think of Crocodile Dundee:

    “That’s not oppression. That’s oppression.”

  12. Claudia Baker says:

    Disheartening and sickening.

    Well done Jerry and Heather. The more light shed on this, the better. In Canada, we are heading down this same path. All around me are people spouting the same rubbish as the hijab-clad women in the video. People I have known all my life, who are Liberals , vote Liberal and who believe in liberal values. But when it comes to Islam they are illiberal and illogical.

  13. Mark R. says:

    Thanks for the great reporting on this sad affair. Progress is silenced by silence.

    And here I was thinking that the illiberal left hadn’t infected Australia and NZ. Depressing.

  14. Sastra says:

    We welcome and encourage vigorous discussion and debate regarding Islam and the status of women…Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s conversation does not contribute to any insights nor further the debate in any way. This is simple sensationalism designed to fuel division and hate.

    I have heard Ayaan Hirsi Ali speak several times, and, as usual, the Q & A afterwards was one of the most interesting parts because it was unscripted and often challenging. As I recall, Ali’s responses were respectful, thoughtful, nuanced, honest, insightful, and often humorous. When I try to imagine the sort of “sensationalist,” divisive speaker who would not in any way further a debate, what I imagine doesn’t resemble the speaker I have heard and watched. I cannot imagine her in that role.

    This is MY lived experience, as audience.

  15. jwthomas says:

    I’ve forwarded this post to Twitter.

  16. AM says:

    Islamic nations and Muslim around the world believe in death for blasphemy, apostasy, adultry and homosexuality.Belive in women covered because they are sex objects and their witness is worth only half that of a man and entitled lot less in inheritance and husband is allowed to beat even if the husband is evil How can a moral society accept such evils It can’t be be from a loving and just god

  17. Heather P. says:

    Just a correction … the area of Australia hit by the cyclone which, in diminished form, hit N.Z., was in the north-east. Not only was a huge amount of damage done there, but also across the border in northern NSW, where I live. The CBD of Lismore was absolutely trashed with a one-in-a-generation flood that overtopped the levee by more than a metre. So … my sympathies to those affected in N.Z. but please don’t point the finger at Aussies – we’re having a very hard time right now.
    Not helped, either, by the disgraceful ‘silencing’ of Ms Hirsi Ali whom I’d heard speak in Melbourne (at the GAC) some years ago and whom I was looking forward to hearing again. I had a very unenlightening – although ‘just about’ polite – Facebook exchange with some of the people who’d helped organised (and signed) the petition that saw AHA’s tour cancelled. They didn’t seem to get that, whilst accusing AHA of being divisive and bigoted, they had painted themselves into that precise position by their actions.
    Very much NOT impressed.

  18. Kevin Voges says:

    Last year, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was a panelist on Q&A (a discussion programme on Australia’s public broadcaster). Here’s a very reasonable response to a question from an audience member – not much sign of “white supremacy” here!

    Here’s a link to the full show, with a bonus discussion on free will (for Jerry) :-):

    BTW, a minor picky point – it wasn’t “north-west Australia” that copped the brunt of Cyclone Debbie. It was eastern Australia, from around Bowen in north Queensland down to northern New South Wales, a distance of about 1,500 kilometres. Rockhampton, in central Queensland, is still feeling the effects of flooding as it took so long for the water to travel from the catchment areas in the west down to the coast.

    • North-west is a mistake. I make similar mistakes frequently when writing about Australia because I’m thinking of the location in relation to where I am.

      Jerry and I have both seen the other occasion Ayaan Hirsi Ali was on Q and A. I watched it some time ago (and watched it again before this post) and someone else referred it to Jerry before we wrote this. Your characterization of the way she conducted herself is completely correct. Moreover, ime she always conducts herself that way. Her responses are always relevant, thoughtful and considered. She simply doesn’t go off half-cocked the way so many of those who criticize her do.

  19. darrelle says:

    “This is not the language of solidarity, or understanding, or freedom.”

    “This is the language of patriarchy and misogyny.”

    “First Woman: This is the language of white supremacy.”

    This is a very nasty & subversive form of propaganda. This is a tactic that fascists and similar oppressive types have used for a very long time to subvert the societies they aim to gain power over. For a historically recent example, we’ve seen it in spades from the Republican Party and their ilk in the US over the past 20 or so years.

    Take the negative things your opponent accurately accuses you of and with a bearing of righteousness or, even better, victimhood, accuse your opponent of those very things. For example, the Republican Party’s continuous claim that the Democratic Party are the ones who run up the debt and tank the economy.

    It’s hard to believe anyone really does believe such lies, but damn if they aren’t effective. I’d bet money though that the people at the top that originate or inspire this type of propaganda don’t believe it. They know it’s a lie.

    • Yakaru says:

      Well said.

      Fascists usually have the decency to wait until they get into power before closing down the opposition.

      “It’s hard to believe anyone really does believe such lies…”

      To quote Hitchens: people need to participate in their own deception.

      • ThyroidPlanet says:

        I’m having trouble sourcing that otherwise interesting quote – any help?

        • Yakaru says:

          My apologies. It was spoken (Youtube link), and I misquoted it slightly — “People have to take part in their own deception.”

          He was referring to anti-Iraq war activists initially opposing the war because of the danger of Saddam using weapons of mass destruction, and later switching to saying it was always clear that there were no such weapons. It points to an insincerity at the base of their hysteria.

      • darrelle says:

        Thank You.

        Good quote. It does seem as if I’ve heard or read that from Hitchens before, but I’m not sure and I can’t specifically place when or where.

        • Yakaru says:

          See above. A single unpacked sentence from Hitchens, well worth the taking time to unpack.

          This is what pisses me off the most and also kind of terrifies me about these people — the assumption that anyone who makes a statement they disagree with must be labeled and screamed unrelentingly. It’s a valuable learning experience to find a well informed, articulate and sincere opponent, and figure out exactly where the disagreement is.

          • darrelle says:

            I agree, and feel pretty much the same way.

            Thanks for the reference on the Hitchens quote. You’ve jogged my memory and I now remember when and where I first came across it.

  20. nicky says:

    Excellent post, Heather and Jerry.
    I may have said it before, but caĺling Ayaan a white supremacist sounds suspiciously like ‘slavery is freedom’ or ‘war is peace’, very Orwellian.

    • Thanks Nicky.

      And yes. It’s like the new meme:

      War is Peace.
      Freedom is Slavery.
      Ignorance is Strength.
      Trump is President.


      • nicky says:

        The sad, or rather worrying, thing is that Trump actually is president of the US (and, as worrying, Pence his VP).

        I found these women very, very scary. I have difficulty to just write it off as stupid ignorance, it appears deeply sinister to me. Who pays -which I suspect- these women to talk such garbage? Again, just a suspicion, would there be some Saudi lettuce involved?

        • rickflick says:

          I’m only superficially acquainted with the issue, but I would think that Saudi lettuce is unlikely. I’d chalk it up to virtue signalling and in-crowd, group-think. They are likely to perceive themselves as operating from noble principles, much like early Christians at a witch burning.

        • Yeah, I find them a bit scary too. It’s so jarring to hear those words in an Aussie accent. And because they’re Australian, we can’t write them off as unaware or anything like that. If they went through the Aussie school system, their education will have been secular all the way and very similar to my own.

          I don’t know how to explain it. I assume they believe what they’re saying. I have noticed that a lot of people who criticize Ayaan Hirsi Ali actually know very little about her, they just believe what they’ve been told by the regressive left. It’s like the Southern Poverty Law Center putting her on their anti-Muslim extremist list, and the reaction of may to Sam Harris. They’d rather believe the made up quotes from creeps like CJ Werleman.

          • nicky says:

            Yes, I guess I’m too suspicious. ‘It is not because you’re paranoid they are not out to get you!’ ?

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